With sports at a standstill amid the Coronavirus pandemic, NFL fans are looking forward to a slice of normalcy with the upcoming NFL draft, albeit in a much different format sans fans and drafted players in the flesh.
In Western Wisconsin, Packers fans will be able to relive one of the greatest victories in franchise history as FOX 25/48 rebroadcasts Super Bowl XLV from 2-5 p.m. on Sunday April 5.
Green Bay’s thrilling 31-25 triumph over Pittsburgh culminated an amazing 2010 season with a remarkable run, winning six straight games.
On Christmas Day 2010, the Packers’ record was 8-6 with must-win games at Lambeau Field against the New York Giants and Chicago Bears remaining on their regular-season schedule.
Green Bay routed the Giants, 45-17, and then barely edged NFC North champion Chicago, 10-3, to earn the sixth and final NFC playoff spot.
Green Bay peaked at the perfect time, going on the road to post victories over Philadelphia, Atlanta, and the Bears to earn a berth in Super Bowl XLV in Arlington, Texas, at Cowboys Stadium—the house that Jerry built.
I was there, in two capacities.
I was writing a story for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel’s Packer Plus on a long-time Cleveland Browns’ fan with terminal pancreatic cancer. The Packers were his second-favorite team, and a California-based organization akin to Make a Wish (for adults) provided the Super Bowl XLV experience for him and his fiancé.
As a Green Bay native, I was also thrilled to experience Super Bowl XLV with my brother, John, his wife Julie, and Julie’s brother, Johnny. They live in a Chicago suburb—Packer fans in the very heart of die-hard Bears country—and were still on a high from the Packers’ 21-14 win at Soldier Field two weeks earlier in the NFC Championship Game.
When John and I arrived in Dallas on the Thursday before the game, the city was still reeling from an unexpected snow and ice storm and a strike by taxi-cab drivers. The city was partially paralyzed as drivers feared traveling in conditions winter-savvy Wisconsinites would consider a normal February event.
My younger (and taller/better looking/smarter) brother is an executive in the television industry. With that came wining and dining some clients and his Dallas sales staff prior to the game.
I’ll never forget the unbelievable steak and good times at the famous Del Frisco’s Steakhouse, packed with former NFL stars and celebrities. Or the tour of the NFL media center featuring journalists from around the globe. Side note: my wife, Nancy, still has not forgiven me for not asking her hero, Joe Montana, for his autograph when I stood next to him on Radio Row.
Or the visit to the Texas School Book Depository building area, where John F. Kennedy was assassinated. Or the extravagant NFL Network party on Friday night at the Dallas Renaissance Hotel featuring the Dallas Cowboy Cheerleaders, who cheered each guest as they entered the ballroom. Or the multiple chance meetings in the hotel lobby with former Miami Dolphins coaching legend Don Shula and his wife, who shared their Super Bowl experiences.
Super Bowl Sunday, a mild 60-degrees with partial sunshine, proved to be a day of highs and lows.
The good: Across the street from the expansive Cowboy Stadium block, there was a slice of the Lambeau Field tailgating experience before the Super Bowl. There were scores of individual gatherings, with Packers and Steelers fans reveling in the usual pre-game grilling and partying. Johnny and I leisurely walked through the area and enjoyed meeting fans of both teams before departing early for the stadium to meet John and Julie at our seats later after their NFL party and concert.
The bad: Johnny and I waited and weaved in Disney World-like roped lines, entertained by giant video screens, for three hours just to get to the security area. This may sound unbelievable at an event like the Super Bowl, but at least 10,000+ fans went back and forth in a large open field, with no access to restrooms, food, or beverages. Hard to believe, but true. Distraught fans had to leave their place in line and walk/run more than half-a-mile to public venues across the street from the stadium.
The ugly: And our area was severely understaffed with just two workers handling crowd control in the first hour, and one walked off the job. Again, hard to fathom at Super Bowl. Johnny and I and others helped the lone staffer herd upset fans trying to circumvent the lines. In the second hour, some law reinforcements on horseback finally arrived. By the third hour I wished I had a seat in the press box. At the crowded security checkpoint, an officer accidently dropped and broke my new Nikon digital camera. After four anxious and painful hours, I finally took my seat in the second level of Cowboy Stadium—and it was all worth it.
The ultimate: The Packers claimed their fourth Super Bowl championship, and it was surreal to experience the confetti floating down after the game as Aaron Rodgers and Clay Matthews proudly held the Lombardi Trophy. Experiencing it with my brother and family members, amid a section of predominantly Steelers fans, is something I’ll never forget.
But what sticks with me to this day was meeting the Browns fan and his fiancé for an hour-long interview at halftime, as the Black Eyed Peas, Slash, and Usher performed. His positive attitude and love for his fiancé was amazing. He would fight the fight against the cancer as long as he could. He had months to live, but reveled in his Super Bowl experience and was so appreciative of the dream trip.
He was thrilled to see the Packers jump out to a 14-0 first quarter lead on Aaron Rodgers’ touchdown pass to Jordy Nelson and Nick Collins’ electrifying interception for a score. Green Bay led 21-10 at halftime, but as the interview concluded, we heard the roar from the crowd as the Steelers closed to within four points less than five minutes into the third quarter.
The rest is history in a Super Bowl in which Green Bay never trailed. Pittsburgh would get within three points at 28-25 midway through the fourth quarter, but the Packers closed out the game with a field goal and stopped the Steelers on downs on their final drive to seal the win.
For Packer Nation, there was no better scenario than their offense in victory formation for the final plays, with Super Bowl MVP Rodgers taking a knee.
Enjoy the rebroadcast of Super Bowl XLV!